This is not going to be a post that leans into politics, current immigration policy, or an commentary on what's happening at the USA/Mexico border. Immigration continues to be a very controversial subject. However today I wanted to share my story of how I became to be so grateful to be born in the USA.
Yes, this story starts with my grandparents, who were immigrants. My Italian grandfather came to the USA via Ellis Island when he was 11 through the sponsorship program--he already had relatives living here. Can you imagine the long journey from Sicily to the USA as a pre teen, on a ship? He passed away when I was much younger so I don't have a lot of details. However I do know that he started his own business, a barbershop, in St Louis MO. He married another Italian immigrant woman, and had three children. My father is the oldest of the three. Dad also cut hair for a living, until he decided to get into the restaurant business with my uncle.
My strongest memory of Grandpa is having the family over for Sunday dinner at his little house in south St Louis. He sat at the head of the table, smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes in his white tank top. At the beginning of every meal, we would pray and then he would bang his fist on the table and say "God Bless America, the greatest country in the world!". And we would eat. That was it--a public declaration of thanks every Sunday to God and the family. I know my Grandpa was very poor growning up in Sicily. There was a lot of mob violence and not enough to eat. I do remember him telling me that quite often, dinner was watermelon and bread. Once he got to the USA, he worked very hard to create a modest middle class life for himself and his family. He went to church, shared what he had, was kind to all and instilled in me an eternal gratitude for the priviledge/luck of being born here. He so appreciated the work opportunities, the abumdance of food, and the freedom.
Unfortunately I don't have any photos of Grandpa--they were ruined in a basement flood. However I do have some 8mm film of him and those Sunday dinner gatherings. We have so much here compared to most of the rest of the world...it can be easy to take it all for granted. Growing up with that appreciation is something I treasure and try to instill in my own children.
Happy Thanksgiving all!